Travel industry brings effective help for Ukraine
The jubilee edition of the Tourist Promotion Forum started with a duo of experts who talked about bringing aid to Ukraine by the tourism industry. It was attended by Gheorghe Marian Cristescu, the president of Polski Holding Hotelowy, and Alina Dybaś, the initiator of the Tourism Ukraine action.
The initiative has been helping refugees from Ukraine since the first day of the war by, among other things, organizing aid transports and transporting hundreds of thousands of people. The Polish Hotel Holding allocated almost 60 thousand beds for Ukrainians.
Marzena Markowska: Alina, po tell us a few words about this action, which began on the first day of the war. I remember when we were at YourTourism Gala, it was the day the war broke out in Ukraine. We did not cancel the event and I do not regret it, because it was an opportunity to announce our action.
Alina Dybaś: In the morning we found out what the situation is with our neighbors. In our organization and on the Tourism Forum of Piotr Kruczek, with whom we cooperate, I informed that we have a lot of friends and acquaintances and they have families so maybe we should help those pilots, guides and contractors in some way. They definitely need our support, not only in spirit and saying “we are with you”, but also in physical action.
After posting the information I expected a response, but I know the realities of our industry – often there is no chance for a bigger response. Meanwhile, within two hours, I had a staff of forty people at my disposal, and a moment later there were already fifty. In the evening when I went to the Your Tourism Gala, I already had the first coaches leaving for the border. The action started very quickly and everyone who could joined it.
During the first three days, when everyone around was still organizing, we attracted a large number of refugees. We launched the first aid stations including those connected to the border guards, where we left information and leaflets about the safety of women at the border.
Then a lot of companies from outside tourism started to apply to us. At the moment we are cooperating with cities like Legnica, Piła and Wrocław. The fire department and various entrepreneurs began to somewhat “give themselves” into our hands on the principle of “Ms. Alina, you know how to organize, and we have the money, so tell us what you need and do with it what you think is necessary”.
Now we belong to a structure, an informal NGOs. There are 47 of us NGOs around the world. If someone does not have enough of something, they call our presidents and within 10 minutes at most the problem is solved. Good news – the Damian Hospital from Warsaw is building a field hospital in Dolhobycz and we are transporting tiles for the construction of this hospital.
MM: Mr. Chairman, I remembered your words about our colors, which happen to be yellow and blue. This is what we saw during the Gala and this is what we see everywhere on our visualizations. I also remember your reaction and it seems to me that PHH got into action right away. As it was?
Gheorghe Marian Cristescu: Yes, but we joined this action just like 38 million people in Poland. I am convinced that the whole Poland and our colleagues gathered here joined this work. It’s a little awkward for me to say what we do because it’s hard to brag to. I don’t feel comfortable to boast about our achievements, because we are working the same way as everyone else. I feel proud, because I am Romanian by origin, but Polish by choice. I am proud that these two nations Poland and Romania show the world how to help their brothers and how to treat people. They are not treated as refugees but as friends or family and that is amazing. Coming back to what we have done, this week we have reached 60 thousand beds, which were given to Ukrainians. We learned to cooperate even during the pandemic e.g. during the construction of the isolation centers with the governors. From the very beginning we thought of organizing ourselves in a centralized way because we realized that this fight will not be a one-day, one-week or two-week one. Unfortunately it will last for months and that is why we decided that we have to be well prepared for longer assistance. Political-global-tourism support was also important. I got involved because of my contacts with Ukraine and with the representative of the hotel industry in Ukraine as well as with the Minister of Tourism, who unfortunately could not be here today. Thanks to the cooperation with us and the minister Andrzej Gut-Mostowy we managed to organize a group of cooperation very quickly, where the first such success was the closure of booking.com for Russians. Our cooperation and my contacts allowed us to reach the hearts of the people on the booking board.com even though they saw what was going on, they took a very long time to make a decision. I do not conceal that the main motivation that convinced them was the reference to the closed competition in Russia. Important voice of Poland on the international arena, which together with three other countries excluded Russia from international structures of tourism organizations. The first steps have already been taken and I hope they will be effective. As the only Polish company that has cooperation with international networks, we have decided to send a letter to five of our colleagues in m.I am proud that these two nations, Poland and Romania, are showing the world how to help their brothers and how to treat people. Unfortunately, to this day, this has had no effect and I think it is a bad example for the entire tourism industry.
MM: We have 2,5 million refugees in Poland at the moment. You have up-to-date data? Can you quote some indicative numbers showing what the Tourism Ukraine initiative itself as a countable group has done? Of course, this does not give a complete picture.
AD: As you said, this absolutely does not reflect the big picture. We have a report, where everyone puts even the smallest successes, but it is clear that there are still more important things happening than writing them down. But we are trying to complete certain things, because we keep statistics, which we can later present to the Ministry and show how many people came, which of them are familiar with the hotel industry, and how we can use this data. As of now, Tourism Ukraine, which is almost the entire industry that has come together has carried about 70,000. refugees. The organizers provide coaches, make their offices available and use them for accommodation. About 45 thousand. people are accommodated, 11,000. more people are already transported further to other countries. There is a relocation problem, which is caused by two factors: fear, because the citizens of Ukraine understand us and feel safer, and the second factor is that they still hope for a quick return to themselves and do not want to leave so far away. In addition, more than 90 truckloads of various types of aid were transported (from medical, to food, to military aid). We transported over 200 sick children. Necessary items for specialized hospitals are also transported every day. The best thing about these figures is that there are no longer any barriers, e.g. someone calls and says “Hi Alina, I have your number from”. It’s a fantastic spiral of love within people for each other. So far I have not seen such solidarity, warmth and such valuable people around.
MM: Mr. President, we’re already starting to think about what to do next? Unclear what about the war and how long the refugee situation will last. People live in hotels, are there programs to implement them? Some of them are people who want to stay and work here.